A wonderful photograph of Saint Augustine Lighthouse’s “Lantern Room”. The lantern room of a lighthouse is the top of the lighthouse which houses the lamp and the lens. This was the first lighthouse established in Florida by the new, territorial, American Government in 1824. According to some archival records and maps, this “official” American lighthouse was placed on the site of an earlier watchtower built by the Spanish as early as the late 16th century. A map of St. Augustine made by Baptista Boazio in 1589, depicting Sir Francis Drake‘s attack on the city, shows an early wooden watch tower near the Spanish structure, which was described as a “beacon” in Drake’s account. By 1737, Spanish authorities built a more permanent tower from coquina taken from a nearby quarry on the island. Archival records are inconclusive as to whether the Spanish used the coquina tower as a lighthouse, but it seems plausible, given the levels of maritime trade by that time. The structure was regularly referred to as a “lighthouse” in documents—including ship’s logs and nautical charts—dating to the British Period beginning in 1763.
The “newest tower” was completed in 1874, and put into service with a new first order Fresnel lens. It was lit for the first time in October by keeper William Russell who was the first lighthouse keeper in the new tower.
The 1874 fresnel lens fixed lamp has a range of 17 nautical miles; 31 kilometres (19 mi) flashing lamp, 21 nautical miles; 39 kilometres (24 mi)